Paul Revere's Ride
Book Discussion Guide
Welcome to the Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide from our American History Book Club. This discussion is beginning in April, 2012. We invite you to join in and read Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer with us.
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Paul Revere's Ride looms as an almost mythical event
in American history--yet it has been largely ignored by scholars and
left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost
American historians offers the first serious look at the events of the
night of April 18, 1775--what led up to it, what really happened, and
what followed--uncovering a truth far more remarkable than the myths of
In Paul Revere's Ride, David Hackett
Fischer fashions an exciting narrative that offers deep insight into the
outbreak of revolution and the emergence of the American republic.
Beginning in the years before the eruption of war, Fischer illuminates
the figure of Paul Revere, a man far more complex than
the simple artisan and messenger of tradition. Revere ranged widely
through the complex world of Boston's revolutionary movement--from
organizing local mechanics to mingling with the likes of John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
When the fateful night arrived, more than sixty men and women joined
him on his task of alarm--an operation Revere himself helped to organize
and set in motion. Fischer recreates Revere's capture that night,
showing how it had an important impact on the events that followed. He
had an uncanny gift for being at the center of events, and the author
follows him to Lexington Green--setting the stage for a fresh
interpretation of the battle that began the war.
David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and
Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. He
is the author of numerous books, including Washington's Crossing, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history.
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If you would like to read more about Paul Revere, check out our Paul Revere Facts page. Learn the true story of Paul Revere's Midnight Ride here.
Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
The author points out that in 200 years, a scholarly history of Paul Revere had never been pursued until now. His story was merely the subject of legend and folklore until the creation of this book.
- The book will examine not only Paul Revere, but also British General Thomas Gage.
By studying the two men, the author hopes to convey the cultural
attitudes of both sides to better understand the events surrounding the
outbreak of the American Revolution.
- What do you think of the "broad prejudice in American universities
against patriotic events of every kind?" Does this prejudice exist? If
so, why does it exist? Is it justified?
- What do you think of the idea that our beliefs on an historic event
can be shaped by legend and folklore as opposed to actual historical
facts? Is this alarming at all? Is there any way to avoid it?
Things That Caught Our Eye
- "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" was one of the earliest films ever made, by Thomas Edison in 1914.
- Americans living at the time remembered exactly what they were doing
and where they were when they recalled the first time they heard the
British had attacked Lexington and Concord, the same way Americans today
remember President Kennedy's assassination or 9/11.
- "The cause of this neglect (of scholarly study of Paul Revere)...
is a broad prejudice in American universities against patriotic events
of every kind, especially since the troubled years of Vietnam and
- "During the pivotal period from the Fall of 1774 to the Spring of 1775, (Paul Revere) had an uncanny genius for being at the center of events."
- "This book's... purpose is to return to the primary sources, to study what actually happened, to put Paul Revere
on his horse again, to take the midnight ride seriously as an
historical event, to suspend fashionable attitudes of disbelief toward
an authentic American hero, and move beyond the prevailing posture of
contempt for a major British leader. Most of all it is to study both Paul Revere and Thomas Gage with sympathy and genuine respect."
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Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Chapter 1 - Paul Revere's America
Childhood and heritage - Paul Revere's father,
Apollos, came to Boston at twelve years of age after escaping the
Catholic persecution of Protestant Huguenots in France. He was
apprenticed to an elderly gold and silversmith and eventually began his
own business. His mother came from a well to do established Boston
family. Paul grew up with his mother's family, being influenced by the
institutions of Puritan New England. He eventually took over his
father's goldsmithing and silversmithing business at the age of 19 when
his father died.
- Personal life and community involvement - Paul was a successful
artisan, but was also highly engaged in the community, serving in many
positions such as clerk of Boston market, health officer of Boston,
coroner of Suffolk County, lieutenant of artillery, master of the
Masonic lodge and others. His community involvement gave him access to
the other leading political personages of the town and he was invited to
join their elite groups that controlled local politics. As a result, he
became a regular member of their inner circle, which included such
people as James Otis, Benjamin Edes (publisher of the Boston Gazette), John Hancock and Sam Adams.
- In his position as an intimate member of the local political leaders in Boston, Paul Revere was intricately involved from the beginning of the resistance to the British and played a role in such key events as the Stamp Act repeal celebrations, resistance to the Townshend Acts, harassing of British soldiers in Boston, the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
- Revere was often sent from the city of Boston to carry messages to
patriot groups in other cities around New England, even to New York and
Philadelphia, where he was sent several times to deliver messages to the
Continental Congress. Revere became a leading communicator, coordinator
and organizer of the collective efforts of the Boston patriots.
Imagine being driven from your land at a young age because of your
religious beliefs as Paul's father was? How would you feel and respond
to this? How would such an experience shape your view of the world?
- Boston's culture was affected in every way by the Protestant,
Christian, Puritan lifestyle, affecting everything from work habits to
dress to acceptable forms of punishment to community political action.
How does this Puritan tradition still influence American customs and
habits today? Has this influence been lost? If it has been lost, is this
a good thing or a bad thing and why?
- Paul Revere has traditionally been thought of as
merely a messenger. Now that you know more about his political
relationships and intricate involvement with Boston's patriotic
movement, explain how this involvement puts him in a different light.
Things That Caught Our Eye
- Although Paul's father was a Calvinist Huguenot and most Bostoners
were Calvinist Puritans, both were different in many ways, the Puritans
were more austere, but the French were more fun-loving. Paul's father
seemed to mix both lifestyles and Paul caught his father's exuberance
not just for work, but also for play.
- Today we assume the members of the Boston Tea Party
dressed as Indians in a condescending manner, as if to place the blame
on a despised group, but the reality is that they were dressed as
Indians... because Indians were viewed as a symbol of American freedom
in New England in the late 18th century! Presumably this is because
Indians lived freely on the frontier as free spirits however they
pleased with no one governing over them.
- An indication of Paul Revere's importance to the
Boston patriot movement is the fact that of the 255 men associated with
seven different groups of Boston patriots, no man was a part of all
seven, or of even six of them. Only two men belonged to five of the
groups, Dr. Joseph Warren and Paul Revere.
Only five men appeared in four of the groups and only seven men
appeared in three. This also shows that the patriot movement in Boston
was not tightly controlled by any person or even a handful of people,
but was large, open and loosely led by a wide range of people from many
- "The Boston of his youth was very different than the city that
stands on the same spot today, closer in some ways to a medieval village
than to the modern metropolis of steel and glass... From a distance the
skyline of the town was dominated by its steeples."
- "This simple document (a covenant drawn up between a 15 year old
Paul and his friends)... summarizes many of the founding principles of
New England: the sacred covenant and the rule of law, self-government
and majority vote, fundamental rights and free association, private
responsibility and public duty, the gospel of service and the ethic of
work, and a powerful idea of community."
- "Paul Revere became a major leader by 1774, more so
than is recognized by academic historians, who understandably tend to
be more interested in talkers and writers. Paul Revere was an actor and a doer."
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